Miraculous Marco

Where others may have seen crises, Marco’s parents saw only miracles

Marco smiling

Already the mother of two preteens, Ana was shocked to learn she was pregnant again. The whole family was. From that moment, they knew this baby would be their miracle child.

The pregnancy proceeded as expected, until the doctor noticed something alarming during the third ultrasound — hydrocephalus, a brain condition that causes a rapid increase in brain size. He rushed Ana to the hospital. Watching the fetal monitor while on the table, she noticed something else unusual about her baby’s head.

“Doctor, there’s a space in the baby’s mouth. Why?” she asked. The doctor said it was normal and continued his examination. Ana said nothing more, but sensed he wasn’t telling her something.

A short while later, Marco was born in the eye of a storm of doctors, nurses, and beeping equipment. When, at last, the nurse delivered Marco to his parents, he gave them another shock — the space Ana had noticed in his face was real. He had a cleft.

This time, the doctors had an answer. “They told me, ‘Don’t worry. There is a solution for this, and he can get surgery and be healthy as any other child.’ I thought if that’s what the doctors say, well, God sent him to me like that for a reason… so I will fight for him until the end!” Ana recalled.

But she barely got to hold him before he was rushed to the NICU to treat his hydrocephalus. As the hours, then days, in the NICU ticked by, Ana and her husband, Marco Antonio, lived and died on each tiny breath from Marco’s fragile lungs. So the hospital staff gave them a bottle of hope.

Babies with clefts are often malnourished and sometimes even die because they cannot swallow breast milk without choking on it. Specialists, therefore, took this opportunity to give Ana and Marco Antonio a special bottle for newborns with clefts and training on how to use it, ensuring that Marco could eat and gain enough weight to be healthy enough for cleft surgery at the soonest possible time.

Marco before cleft surgery
Marco before cleft surgery

After 12 days in the NICU, Marco’s head was a healthy size, and he was finally cleared to go home. Many children with clefts are hidden for fear of stirring rumors and harassment, but when Marco‘s family proudly introduced their miracle baby to their small, tight-knit community, relatives and neighbors greeted him only with joy and offers to help in any way they could.

Just a few months later, the entire village celebrated again when Marco reached a healthy weight for surgery and Ana and Marco Antonio had scrimped and saved enough to afford it. When the big day came, Marco caught a cold and the hospital rescheduled. When that next big day came, he caught another cold, and the hospital canceled his surgery and did not refund their money.

It was a blow, but his parents continued to believe in their miracle. Their prayers were unexpectedly answered during a routine appointment many weeks later when Marco’s dentist asked why he was 10 months old and still hadn’t had cleft surgery. As Marco Antonio recounted their bad luck, the dentist connected him to Dr. Carlos Alvarado and explained how, thanks to his partnership with Smile Train, Dr. Alvarado, would provide Marco all the cleft care he would ever need, completely free at the nearby Clínica Hospital Jesús Nazareno.

“That was a happy day,” Ana said.

Marco smiling with his hands on his cheeks
Marco flaunting his new smile

This time, the hospital “treated us like we were special from the moment we arrived,” said Marco Antonio, and a few hours later, Ana burst into tears at the sight of her son’s new smile. “I was so excited to see my baby looking different,” she said. “He looked excellent; a very beautiful surgery.”

Marco playing at home
Marco playing with a toy shopping cart

Back home, the neighbors were amazed at their miracle baby’s transformation. And this is only the beginning. Smile Train will continue to sponsor specialized cleft treatments for Marco as he grows to ensure no lingering effects of his cleft stop him from reaching his fullest potential.

Marco with his parents and older sisters
Marco with his parents and older sisters

“Oh, thank you so much to everyone involved with Smile Train!” Marco Antonio said. “May God bless you and give you health. May you keep helping everyone you can because it is something special. You are like angels that God sends to help the ones who need it.”

Marco waving
Marco waving

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Our Impact in Panama

as of March 2022


cleft surgeries sponsored since 2009


active partner surgeon


active partner hospitals